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# Segmentation by

Morphological Watersheds
Introduction
Based on visualizing an image in 3D
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imshow(I,[ ]) mesh(I)
Introduction
image itself, this technique
is often applied on its
In this case, each object is
distinguished from the
background by its up-lifted
edges
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Basic Definitions
I: 2D gray level image
D
I
: Domain of I
Path P of length l between p and q in I
A (l +1)-tuple of pixels (p
0
=p,p
1
,,p
l
=q) such that
p
i
,p
i+1
l(P): The length of a given path P
Minimum
A minimum M of I is a connected plateau of pixels
from which it is impossible to reach a point of lower
altitude without having to climb
Basic Definitions
Instead of working on an image itself, this technique is often applied
Three types of points
Points belonging to a regional minimum
Catchment basin / watershed of a regional minimum
Points at which a drop of water will certainly fall to a single minimum
Divide lines / Watershed lines
Points at which a drop of water will be equally likely to fall to more than one
minimum
Crest lines on the topographic surface
This technique is to identify all the third type of points for
segmentation
Basic Steps
1. Piercing holes in
each regional
minimum of I
2. The 3D topography
is flooded from
3. When the rising
water in distinct
catchment basins is
dam is built to
prevent the merging
3. The dam
boundaries
correspond to
the watershed
lines to be
extracted by a
watershed
segmentation
algorithm
- Eventually only
constructed
dams can be
seen from
above

Dam Construction
Based on binary morphological dilation
At each step of the algorithm, the binary
image in obtained in the following
manner
1. Initially, the set of pixels with minimum gray
level are 1, others 0.
2. In each subsequent step, we flood the 3D
topography from below and the pixels
covered by the rising water are 1s and
others 0s. (See previous slides)
Notations
M1, M2:
Sets of coordinates of points
in the two regional minima
C
n-1
(M
1
), C
n-1
(M
2
)
Sets of coordinates of points
in the catchment basins
associated with M1 M2 at
stage n-1 of flooding
(catchment basins up to the
flooding level)
C[n-1]
Union of C
n-1
(M
1
), C
n-1
(M
2
)
Dam Construction
At flooding step n-1, there are
two connected components. At
flooding step n, there is only
one connected component
This indicates that the water
between the two catchment basins
has merged at flooding step n
Use q to denote the single
connected component
Steps
Repeatedly dilate C
n-1
(M
1
), C
n-1
(M
2
)
by the 33 structuring element
shown, subject to the following
condition
Constrained to q (center of the
structuring element can not go
beyond q during dilation

Dam Construction
The dam is constructed by
the points on which the
dilation would cause the
sets being dilated to merge.
Resulting one-pixel thick
connected path
Setting the gray level at
each point in the resultant
path to a value greater than
the maximum gray value of
the image. Usually max+1

Watershed Transform
Denote M
1
, M
2
, , M
R
as the sets of
the coordinates of the points in the
regional minima of an (gradient) image
g(x,y)
Denote C(M
i
) as the coordinates of the
points in the catchment basin
associated with regional minimum M
i
.
Denote the minimum and maximum
gray levels of g(x,y) as min and max
Denote T[n] as the set of coordinates
(s,t) for which g(s,t) < n
Flood the topography in integer flood
increments from n=min+1 to n=max+1
At each flooding, the topography is
viewed as a binary image
M
i
C(M
i
)
n-1
T(n)
Watershed Transform
Denote C
n
(M
i
) as the set of
coordinates of points in the catchment
basin associated with minimum M
i
at
flooding stage n.
C
n
(M
i
)= C(M
i
) T[n]
C
n
(M
i
)=T[n]
Denote C[n] as the union of the
flooded catchment basin portions at
stage n:

Initialization
Let C[min+1]=T[min+1]
At each step n, assume C[n-1] has
been constructed. The goal is to
obtain C[n] from C[n-1]
M
i
C(M
i
)
n-1
T(n)
C
n
(M
i
)
C(n)

R
i
i
R
i
i n
M C C M C n C
1 1
) ( ] 1 [max and ) ( ] [

Watershed Transform
Denote Q[n] as the set of connected
components in T[n].
For each qQ[n], there are three
possibilities
1. q C[n-1] is empty (q
1
)
A new minimum is encountered
q is incorporated into C[n-1] to form C[n]
2. q C[n-1] contains one connected
component of C[n-1] (q
2
)
q is incorporated into C[n-1] to form C[n]
3. q C[n-1] contains more than one
connected components of C[n-1] (q
3
)
A ridge separating two or more catchment
basins has been encountered
A dam has to be built within q to prevent
overflow between the catchment basins
4. Repeat the procedure until n=max+1
C
n-1
(M
i
)
M
i
C(M
i
)
n-2
T(n-1)
C(n-1)
n-1
T(n)
q
1
q
2
q
3
Dam
C(n)
Examples 1
Watershed Transform of Binary Image
A: Original image B: Negative of image A
C: Distance transform of B D: Watershed transform of C
A B
C D
Distance transform of a binary image is defined by
the distance from every pixel to the nearest non-zero
valued pixel
Examples 2
a: Original image
b: Gradient image of image a
c: Watershed lines obtained
from image b
(oversegmentation)
Each connected region
contains one local
minimum in the
image
d: Watershed lines obtained
from smoothed image b
a b
c d
The Use of Markers
Internal markers are used to limit the
number of regions by specifying the
objects of interest
Like seeds in region growing method
Can be assigned manually or automatically
Regions without markers are allowed to be
merged (no dam is to be built)
External markers those pixels we are
confident to belong to the background
Watershed lines are typical external markers
and they belong the same (background)
region
Watershed Based Image
Segmentation
1. Use internal markers to obtain watershed lines of the
gradient of the image to be segmented.
2. Use the obtained watershed lines as external markers
3. Each region defined by the external markers contains a
single internal marker and part of the background
4. The problem is reduced to partitioning each region into
two parts: object (containing internal markers) and a single
background (containing external markers)
Global thresholding, region growing, region splitting and
merging, or watershed transform
MATLAB Example
A: Original image f
B: Direct watershed transform
result using the following
commands
L=watershed(g)
wr = L ==0
g is the gradient image of A
C: shows all of the regional
minima of g using
rm=imregionalmin(g)
D: internal markers obtained by
im = imextendedmin(g,2)
fim = f;
fim(im) = 175;
E: External markers using
Lim = watershed(bwdist(im))
em = Lim ==0